Six matches remain. One point separates Manchester City and Liverpool, and they’ve played the same number of games. Blink and it’s gone. Who’s got the intestinal fortitude to put their name on that enormous trophy once again?
Premier League odds, with Betfred
Remember when Fred paid out early, months ago, on City? To be fair, he’s got ‘previous’ for that not working out quite as one might have hoped. Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool obviously paid scant attention, and they’ve gradually reeled in their great rivals courtesy of a wonderful run of form.
Clashes between the two in the PL both ended 2-2, with I think it’s fair to say the more disappointed of the two, on each occasion, being City. How crucial that could be between now and Sunday, May 22nd.
Liverpool’s undoubted attacking fluency has seen them score a league-best 83 goals, and though City’s defence is marginally meaner Liverpool have the edge in goal difference (6). In such a tight race that could be crucial too.
City have masked their lack of a high-quality goalscoring forward as well as could be expected. Wideman Riyad Mahrez and talisman Kevin De Bruyne head their list with 11 PL goals apiece, and Bernardo, Gundogan and Phil Foden have chipped in significantly. They’ve had to.
Liverpool meanwhile possess the league’s leading poacher in Mo Salah, pictured above (22), plus notably the very dangerous Diogo Jota (15), and Sadio Mane (14). City’s pursuit of Harry Kane of course came to nothing at the season’s start, but it’s not hard to imagine his current haul of 12 could have multiplied significantly with KDB and company providing the ammunition.
Ifs, buts and maybes however don’t win titles.
Liverpool to me are a more settled beast at the minute. A successful blueprint followed to the letter, and with an element in Salah that no-one in the league possesses. Component parts are tweaked and rotated carefully, but with minimal disruption.
Indispensables Alisson, Van Dijk and Salah all have 30 PL appearances to their name. For City, Ederson has an impressive 31, but star turn De Bruyne (below right) has 25, and fellow key man Mahrez (below left), 24. Pep’s options beguile and bewitch him, and his rotations and tweaks are far more profound.
Selection foibles notwithstanding, injuries will of course play their part. Both have two-legged CL semi-finals to play in the coming weeks, alongside must-win domestic challenges. Untimely knocks at this stage could be key.
So – Liverpool have 3 remaining home games; Everton, Spurs, and Wolves. They’ll also travel to Southampton, Newcastle, and Aston Villa. I’m going to say there’s potential there for 2 draws, losing the Reds four points.
City meanwhile entertain Watford, Newcastle, and Villa; and visit Wolves, Leeds, and West Ham. For me, a run-in of similar severity to their rivals, and the potential again for a couple of draws. My reading then of the situation is that City will eventually prevail by the odd, precious point they currently lead by.
So much can happen of course over these last six matches, but what’s surely not in doubt is the wonderful quality, consistency, and sheer will-to-win that these two fine sides bring to the table.
Brilliant managers too, much beloved and respected by their players. And what players. If City had Salah. If the Reds had De Bruyne. The stuff of dreams.
They both play the right way. Front-foot. Gloriously off the cuff at times. Satisfied with nothing but the best – and they are the best, for me by some distance, that this league has ever seen.
The rivalry over the past four years or so has been electric – setting standards others are straining to match. European champions Chelsea trail by 15 points. You need binoculars for the rest.
Wherever your affiliations might lie, watching these two week in week out is a joy. They don’t always quite get it right – who does – but the magic happens often enough to enthral the toughest of critics. Let battle continue – and may the best, simply fantastic team, win.